All they want to do is dance, dance, dance

Tenth anniversary of NAfro celebrates cultural and dance diversity in city


When Casimiro Nhussi applied for the first grant from the Canada Arts Council for independent dance work in 2002, the last thing on his mind was celebrating a 10th anniversary.

A decade later, his company, NAfro, is not only going strong, it is gaining momentum.

To celebrate, the company is throwing a three-day dance festival celebration Thursday, Nov. 1 to Saturday, Nov. 3 at the Gas Station Arts Centre, and has invited some friends from near and far to join in on the fun.

Nhussi, who brought his love of dance to Winnipeg from Mozambique in 1997, is quick to shift the congratulations for NAfro’s continued success from himself to the dance community in Winnipeg who supported him from the beginning.

“I put on the first show with four dancers and three musicians, and it was kind of suspenseful,” Nhussi says of NAfro’s start. “It was new for a lot of people, they hadn’t seen something like that before.”

Nhussi specializes in African contemporary dance, and was encouraged by the eagerness of Winnipeggers to support his work.

It was this support that pushed Nhussi to incorporate his company as a non-profit organization when he was no longer able to apply for grant funding.

Celebrating this milestone was natural for Nhussi.

“Every important moment of our lives we celebrate. ... So, I decided, if we must go broke, let’s go broke. Let’s do it. Let’s celebrate!”

NAfro’s Moving Inspirations Dance Festival features some of the best of the best from the dance community, which the company’s website calls “a delicious buffet” of dance.

Each of the three nights features six different dance companies from Winnipeg and beyond, and almost every genre of dance that you can think of, including contemporary, African contemporary, ballet, flamenco, hip hop and much more.

The festival also includes “dessert” with its showcases, with daily choreographic demonstrations, dance classes for all levels and master classes for professional dancers.

NAfro and Nhussi’s support and reach are demonstrated by the list of companies and professional dancers that are a part of the weekend’s schedule, including local flamenco dancer Clare Marchand.

Marchand, who has been dancing flamenco here for over a decade and will be performing in the Thursday evening showcase and leading a choreography demonstration Saturday morning, has great respect for Nhussi.

She says that she has been following NAfro’s trajectory since its inception.

“It’s a really important company, not just in Winnipeg, but in Canada, because the genre is so hard to find.”

Marchand speaks highly of Nhussi’s skills as an artist.

“He really is central to the whole artistic expression there. He ties people in from the local musical and dance community and it really speaks to his vision and passion.”

NAfro’s Moving Inspirations Dance Festival runs Thursday, Nov. 1 to Saturday, Nov. 3, with dance showcases nightly at 8 p.m. at the Gas Station Arts Centre, 445 River Ave. Tickets are available at the box office and online. Visit for full schedules and ticket information.

Published in Volume 67, Number 9 of The Uniter (October 31, 2012)

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